Teen Detachment: What Is Normal? | Teaching Self-Government

Teen Detachment: What Is Normal?

I’ve previously talked about how teens go through normal detachment from their families. That’s to be expected. It’s the abnormal detachment that parents should watch for. Parents need to know what normal detachment looks like and the warning signs of abnormal detachment that can signal larger problems.

In generations before ours, youth 12-18 year’s old were beginning their adult lives. They started apprenticing, began intense studies, and worked long hours in the farm fields. They also helped their parents in running the home. Many girls took care of the elderly or began teaching careers. They even started looking for their future spouses. To accomplish all of these things, it was necessary for youth to see themselvesas individuals. Each teenager knew they had a special mission and had to pave their own path. They had vision. All of these youthful feelings are normal and necessary to accomplish what God has sent them here to do. 

Today, our children have the same feelings as youth from previous generations, but our society has made these feelings confusing. For years we’ve encouraged our children to play more than work. When I was in high school, people told me to have fun then because soon real life would start, which wouldn’t be fun. Now that I think about it, they were telling me to be selfish. Media and the overload of social and recreation time feeds self in teens. People who are taught to feed themselves have a hard time finding their direction and mission in life, which is about serving others. 

I hope you see the confusion. Teens have normal ambitious feelings, but they don't have enough opportunity in our society to practice being self-sufficient. The confusing transition can be difficult for youth and parents for the same reason: they’ve been trained to be docile. Don't get me wrong, there are many great people who find their purpose later in life, but for the most part, we were all trained to indulge in recreation far too often for our own good. We should all study more. 

To help youth find themselves, we need to show them healthy ways to detach. We need to encourage ambition, projects, study and good friends. Teenagers should still think family is cool. If your youth thinks family is dumb, then he probably thinks a little too much of himself. Character-building is a great solution. 

Attitude problems, pouting, aggression, laziness, disrespect or defiance should be corrected. These selfish behaviors indulge out-of-control behavior. These behaviors can be corrected using the four basic skills and the five teaching styles. Continue to pre-teach good behaviors and new life skills. Explain to your teens that when you see that they’re able to govern their own behaviors, then they’ll be given adult privileges. Help them learn to master communication and behaviors. They’ll be grateful for your diligence in helping them stand apart from the norm by being able to govern themselves. 

The most important thing you can do for your children is build your relationship with them. For boys, the best person to take an active mentor role is their dad or another inspiring man. Daughters might also want attention from their dads, but in the long run, they’ll want to be like their moms.

These years are also a great time to find inspiring mentors outside of home life to make lasting impacts on your youth. The right mentor can launch your youth into a healthy adulthood. Stay away from the wrong mentor. That could spell disaster!

Regular prayer with your youth will also give them the strength they need to call on God for help and to find truth in the confusing world around them. 

Above all, make yourself available and safe to talk to about anything and watch for signs of problems. Children who are too secretive or withdrawn from family might have a bigger issue, like pornography or drugs. Pornography is probably the most common. Always be on your guard against it! 

The teenage years can be tricky for parenting, but they are also an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your children and help them become strong, self-governing adults. Good luck!

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